Health Minister refuses to meet with United Nurses of Alberta about layoffs, service cuts

United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith wrote to Health Minister Tyler Shandro on Dec. 2, 2019, requesting a meeting to discuss Alberta Health Services' plans to eliminate up to 750 Registered Nurse and Registered Psychiatric Nurse jobs, reconfigure services provided at smaller worksites, close acute care beds and reduce clinic access.

Shandro’s office responded on Dec. 5, 2019 in a two-sentence email: “On behalf of the Honourable Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health, thank you for your meeting request to discuss letters received from AHS Lead Negotiator Raelene Ritz. Due to scheduling, please note that Minister Shandro is not able to meet at this time.”

UNA is disappointed with Shandro’s refusal to meet with nurses who are deeply concerned about the layoffs and services cuts.

The AHS letter states that the bed closures and service reductions could begin to take place in 2020, which is less than 30 days away. The letter did not state which worksites these closures would impact, which is a concern to UNA members who work in nearly every community across Alberta. 

The AHS plans contradict a promise in the United Conservative Party platform to balance the budget “without cutting front-line services” and a Dec. 3 tweet from Shandro that said "these proposed changes will not reduce services or access."

UNA has a long history of productive in-person meetings with Health Ministers including Dave Hancock, Gene Zwozdesky, Fred Horne, and Sarah Hoffman.

In addition to declining to meet with UNA at this time, Shandro also declined an invitation to speak to UNA members at the union’s annual general meeting in October 2019, an invitation that Zwozdesky, Horne, and Hoffman accepted in previous years.

UNA represents more than 30,000 Registered Nurses, Registered Psychiatric Nurses and allied health care workers in Alberta, a significant majority employed in the public sector.